January 25, 2013 - 6:44 PM
Though a formal invitation for John Doyle to resume his place as auditor general has been announced, controversy continues for Vernon-Monashee MLA Eric Foster.
Doyle's dismissal by an all-party committee headed by Foster has been the catalyst for ongoing criticism of Foster's choice of office rental for his constituency office. Critics—including Doyle—have suggested Foster should have removed himself from the committee because of the investigation.
Since being asked to stay on another two years, Doyle has had his say about the whole situation. Doyle has said he was concerned his independence was being attacked by "a committee that doesn't know what it's doing."
As Doyle mulls over his future as auditor general, Foster is facing questions on the original expenses and political ties investigated by Doyle.
Foster's 2009 campaign received funding from the man Foster now leases his office space from, Ravinder "Sid" Sihu. BC Elections records show Sid Sidhu contributed a $500 donation to Foster in 2009. Ajit S. Sidhu, who is believed to be related to Sid, donated another $500. Both donations occured on April 16, 2009. The B.C. Conservatives peg that amount at over $1,500.
According to documents obtained by InfoTel News, Kalview Park Enterprises, owned by the Sidhu family in Vernon, purchased the building May 8, 2009— just four days before the general election. They paid $189,098 for the property.
Records also show Kalview Park Enterprises purchased the lot beside the office the same day. Signage in the parking lot states it is reserved parking. It's used by employees at the constituency office. They don't pay for parking. It is not known whether the parking lot is included in the lease agreement. A document from the Kamloops Land Title Office shows Kalview Parks Enterprises paid $108,001 for the lot.
According to a document leaked to a Victoria newspaper that still has not been made public, a "$78,000 bill was submitted for payment with only a spreadsheet showing $67,000 in expenses." Foster has said the $67,000 will be paid out of the regular budget for his constituency office. Former MLA Tom Christensen's office was located in the Sun Valley Mall. Foster could have moved into that office, but chose to switch to the current location on 31st Avenue. He told a local radio station the new office was more accessible to the public. He was investigated and cleared of conflict of interest accusations by Conflict of Interest Commissioner Paul Fraser.
Ministry of Finance documents reveal the B.C. government paid Kalview Park Enterprises $110,895 in 2010, $55,567 in 2011, and $57,799 in 2012, for a total of $224,261. It doesn't itemize the payments, but they are believed to be for rent and renovations.
Foster's relationship with the Sidhus is further complicated by the fact his assistant, Min, is married to Sid Sidhu. Min has served over 15 years as administrator of the Vernon-Monashee constituency office, and was named Woman of the Year in 2011.
Foster has ignored repeated requests for interviews by InfoTel News. Several attempts to contact the Sidhus were unsuccessful.
Foster has said critics were just "flinging mud."
News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2013